Coast Explorer Magazine - The Explorer's Guide to the Oregon Coast and Washington Coast
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Arctic Travelers
Published: 09/01/2013
 
Snowy Owl photographed at Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria, Oregon.
Snowy Owl photographed at Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria, Oregon.
Photo By Neal Maine

The majestic and rarely seen Snowy Owl occasionally winters on the "tundra" of the North Oregon Coast

Though the Northwest coast isn't exactly known for its whopping snowfall, it remains an attractive wintering ground for some North American Snowy Owls. Most of these stunning birds spend their summers north of the Arctic Circle; winter destinations are highly variable. Some stay local, some migrate south into Canada and the Northeastern US, while others deviate into regions atypical of the birds' migration pattern. During irruptive years, the deviants are numerous and find themselves in such unlikely places as the Northwest coast. Beaches and mudflats function as approximate tundra and the highly adaptable birds of prey shift their diet from lemmings and ptarmigans to rats and waterfowl. The Snowy Owls' lucent plumage, diurnal habits and tendency to roost in open, treeless areas make them easier to spot than most owls, so grab your binoculars and check the beaches. Locales of past sightings include Florence, Yaquina Bay and Seaside, but most dependable is the South jetty of the Columbia at Fort Stevens State Park, especially in December. - By Jenna Boyle

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